The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
(this first part of the post is written by Mr Neil who stepped in to the rescue when my hand injury made it impossible for me to either cook or type. It’s slowly healing but I thank my lucky stars that I had some posts up my sleeve…)
What to do with an old pear tree in the backyard, and a plethora of unpicked pears? Well, make pear chutney, of course! Mardi was needing a pear recipe to share for the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers, one of her generous IFBC sponsors and there were pears for the picking in our backyard so it seemed a serendipitous choice.
I’ve never had much success with our tree. Old beyond means, it shoots skyward requiring major pruning at its top every couple of years. Less productive is the fruit it produces…though it must be said I never do anything to assist. This year was different. For whatever reason, the crop was bountiful.
Usually they rot very quickly. Squirrels just love our garden late summer. So my neighbour and I picked two large piles that were still nice and green and hard. I guess the trick is to pick them “before they’re ripe”, as otherwise the fruit starts to nourish the seeds very quickly. As this is Mr. Neil, there is not photographic evidence of the process!
Suffice to say peeling, coring and chopping 30+ pears was a laborious task.
For the chutney itself, I turned to three of my most-trusted resources: Bittman, Becker/Rombauer and Phillips. Not a law firm, but “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman (an excellent book), “The Joy of Cooking” (still a trusty resource) and of course, my mother (childhood memories of waking to the nasal-piercing boiling vinegar).
Chutney is basically just a savory jam, and for me an essential side-dish to curries. Cooked chutneys (as opposed to fresh) were prepared in India exclusively for the English – hence their being a staple in my childhood home. While usually green mango, most any fruit can be made into chutney. And as I had a few dozen pears on hand…
I didn’t really use any one recipe, so what I ended up with was a bit of an amalgam. I was also using up some vinegars on hand, hence the eclectic mix. Really you could use all white, though something with a little more flavour will add more depth to the final product.
Combine the following in a large stock pot or deep sauté pan, and bring to a simmer:
1 cup tarragon vinegar
1 cup balsamic vinegar (regular – not aged)
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup white vinegar
zest and juice of three oranges
zest and juice of three lemons
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp Keen’s dry mustard
3 cinnamon sticks
3 dried star anise
1 three-inch dried chilli (large), chopped
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp sea salt
dash of ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
Add 2 pounds of dark brown sugar or cane sugar. Stir continuously as it dissolves, maintaining the simmer.
Add your fruit, stirring until completely covered by the syrup:
25-30 pears, peeled, cored, chopped into medium-size pieces
1 ½ pounds mixed dark and golden raisins
1 large onion, finely chopped or brunoise
1 large piece of ginger root, minced
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
At this point, you just keep simmering away, uncovered, and stir, for a couple hours or so. After an hour, add a cup of orange juice (with pulp ideally), and continue simmering to reduce. Basically you want the syrup to hold to a wooden spoon: then you’re done.
During the last hour, add any additional spices to taste.
Before putting into sterilised jars, be sure to pull the cinnamon and star anise out!
The final product can be stored in a fridge for at least a month, probably three.
And how did our final product come out? Well, paired with homemade butter chicken (recipe and wine pairing to come soon), it was delightful. A lot of work for only five jars – but will definitely be making chutney on a regular basis. It’s easy and flavourful.
(back to your regular blogger here with a much less ambitious undertaking!)
I had totally intended to make a tomato bruschetta mix, having received some lovely grape tomatoes from our organic delivery and using up some of our sweet yellow grape tomatoes from our garden (about a cup of them in total).
I went as far as blanching them to remove their skins when I realised that they were not really ideal for this recipe – the flesh was falling apart and they were way too seedy. So I improvised – I sautéed three small cloves of garlic in a little olive oil and then added the tomato flesh and about 4 tablespoons of brown sugar to caramelise. It took about 10 minutes to thicken to a jam-like consistency and I let it cool a little before tasting it on toasted baguette with some fresh basil: